TL;DR A ridiculously slow, step-by-step tour increased our conversions by ~50%
In polite conversation, there are certain topics we tend to avoid. How much money do you make? Which marriage are you on? Are you for or against tours for webapps?
Well, maybe I’m stretching a bit on the last one. But not by much.
Tours are a divisive topic; there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Either you think that they’re necessary and vital to ramping up your users or you consider it an atrocity of user experience design.
I’m thoroughly torn on the topic. On one hand, I’m a big fan of getting quickly introduced to an app’s main concepts, the interface, and how things work. On the other hand, I’m not an idiot, and most tours expect you to have the intellectual capacity of a grapefruit.
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However, I noticed that some very successful products (Zynga, Dropbox, World of Warcraft) were using those detailed, hold-your-hand walkthroughs. If those guys were using long, slow tours, they had to have some positive effect, right?
Was it possible that walkthroughs would end up to be another version of long-form sales copy? Something that feels so wrong but converts so right?
So when it came time to figure out the onboarding process for Musubi, I knew it had to test it out. Do they help or do they not? Should I spoon-feed each click to a user? Do I have to wear a bag over my head and code only in the dead of night?
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Just a little Background
Goal: Get In Groups
Before we get to the juicy bits, let’s get some background out of the way. Musubi helps you become unforgettable with smart keep-in-touch reminders and targeted network updates for important contacts. In order to get those reminders a user has to group contacts together, which helps us know who to reach out to and when. The system lives and dies on whether or not someone creates a group. That’s our conversion goal.
To test a variety of tour types, we tested three different onboarding flows, named after various kinds of animal kingdom parents, with roughly equal user flow:
- Timid Turtle: No tour at all; just add your accounts and swim!
- Moderate Meerkat: A 3 step, semi-interactive overview of the main concepts of the webapp and how to get the most value.
- Doting Duckling: 13 step, click-by-click guide through the main concepts and usage, including creation of your own group.
Some interesting results
Tour Completions (Finished all steps)
No surprise here - completions scale pretty much as you would expect; everyone finishes a tour with 0 steps, about 70% will go through 3 steps, and a very special 3% of people will happily watch their grass grow while finishing a 13 step tour.
So in the battle of tours, short tour clearly wins, right?
Wait a minute…
Group Additions (Added a new group)
Mind blown: though long-tour takers are least likely to finish their tours, they are most likely to actually complete the goal.
And in case you’re thinking, “Of course they’re most likely to make a group, you forced them to”, here are the engagement/retention rates 30 days after sign-up.
User engagement, 30 days after sign up
Long tour still wins.
How does this work? How can it be that the tour least likely to be finished actually converts the best?
A possible explanation?
A hypothesis: Momentum and ego.
The long-form tutorial is truly abysmally pedantic. It drags you through the smallest steps; a small flying dot shows you exactly where to click and when. A turnip could complete the tour without much trouble. The steps fly by.
Six steps in, you’re flying. We remind you that you’re halfway through. Those first six steps sure were easy, werent they? The whole app seems easy. By the time you hit the ‘create your own group’ step halfway through, you ‘get it’. You want to get done.
"That tour’s for suckers", you think to yourself. "I’m no sucker".
You made you own group, then another (Did I mention that you’re 30% more likely to have more than 1 group? You are). You never finished the tour because you were busy getting value out of the product already. For reference, 70% of people who abandoned the long tour did it after creating a group.
Long tours build you up; short tours become a flash in the pan
Contrast this with the other two experiences: In the no-tour situation, you’re thrown in without any lead whatsoever. You only have a vague notion of what the app does. They want you to connect email and social accounts. There’s no reminders showing. You click aimlessly, don’t see the purpose, and drift off.
The short tour case is harder to explain. Before starting, I really thought that this would be the highest converting option: you get the key concepts from the app on how it can help yu most, then it lets you off on your own to get things done. Simple enough, right?
But from talking with these users, I’m starting to think that the mental hurdle of what to do after the tour is the major stumbling block here. By introducing users the the concepts of the application, we let them know how it works, but the responsibility is on them to actually go and make it work the way they want it to. For someone who has spent just 60 seconds in your app, it can be overwhelming, to the point where they just quick and make a note to ‘do it later’. Which of course, means never.
A surprising conclusion
So to sum up:
- Give your users concrete actions, not concepts, even if they’re glaringly obvious
- It’s easier to follow many small steps than a few big steps, even if there are many more small steps
- Hand-hold the user through your highest-value step as early as possible
In other words, get your paper bag ready because those awful, slow, dumber-than-dirt tours work.
Captain Obvious checking in, here to save you from accidentally eating peanuts that contain peanuts.
This isn’t the result I expected. Personally, I was really rooting for the short tour to win: it just feels like the right thing to do, and even after looking at this data, I’ve still got an irrational soft-spot for it. Not insultingly obvious, still covering the main value adds - it just feels like the tour you’d give a good friend. I’ll try a short, mainly interactive tour next and see how it goes.
But for now, it’s hard to argue with the results. The Doting Duckling micro-tour is going in my playbook right next to long-form sales copy: something I’m not entirely comfortable with but which definitely warrants consideration.
You might say that it’s an ugly duckling that can’t be ignored.
Sorry, that was terrible, I’ll show myself out now.
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